US Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito cancels public appearance after Roe v Wade leak

Conservative judge wrote majority opinion that appears to signal court's plans to overturn major ruling on abortion rights

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito cancelled a public appearance scheduled for Thursday after a majority opinion drafted by him showed the court's plans to overturn Roe v Wade. AP
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Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito cancelled an appearance at a judicial conference on Thursday after a leaked document showed the court was poised to overturn Roe v Wade.

Mr Alito was scheduled to attend the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals’ judicial conference in New Orleans, Louisiana, Reuters reported.

A Supreme Court representative told the outlet he was not attending and did not provide additional details.

A draft of a Supreme Court document written by Mr Alito that was leaked on Monday night rocked the US as it showed the court's intention to scrap the 1973 ruling protecting abortion rights.

“Roe was egregiously wrong from the start,” Mr Alito wrote in the February draft leaked to and published by Politico. The Supreme Court later confirmed its authenticity.

Mr Alito added: “Its reasoning was exceptionally weak and the decision has had damaging consequences.”

The conservative associate justice has a long track record of voting against abortion rights. He has voted to uphold every state abortion law the Supreme Court has heard since his 2006 confirmation.

Four other conservative justices — Clarence Thomas, Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh — are reported to have voted with Mr Alito.

If Mr Alito's draft is adopted, it would give a major boost to the state of Mississippi, where a new state law aims to revive a ban on abortions starting at 15 weeks.

Overturning Roe v Wade would end federal protections for abortion and create a patchwork framework across the US, where some states already have trigger laws in place that would immediately ban the procedure after the high court's ruling.

The document's leak and potential ruling sent shock waves across the country. President Joe Biden slammed it as “radical” and in a statement outlined plans to protect Roe v Wade.

Vice President Kamala Harris lambasted it as a “direct assault on freedom”.

Chief Justice John Roberts has ordered an investigation into the “egregious breach of trust”, noting that the drafted opinion does not represent the court's final ruling.

Mr Roberts called the draft opnion's leak "absolutely appalling" during remarks at the 11th Circuit Judicial Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, on Thursday, CNN reported. The chief justice added he hoped that one bad actor would not negatively alter "people's perception" of the court.

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Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: May 05, 2022, 7:23 PM